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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. national libraries day

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2. comix creatrix: 100 women making comics

Last night was amazing. The House of Illustration in London launched the UK's largest-ever exhibition of the work of pioneering female comics artists, in Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics.



Here's the striking poster by Laura Callaghan:



Do pop over to see the show, running until 15 May, just across from St Pancras stations (the one where you catch the Eurostar to France) and next to the glowing fountains of Central Saint Martins art college.



Speaking of France, this show couldn't be more perfectly timed. Curators Olivia Ahmad and Paul Gravett had been working with the House of Illustration to prepare the show for a long time, but it came right on the heels of a shocking announcement by France's top comics prize committee of an all-male shortlist of 30 international comics creators. What made it even worse was the board's surprise at public indignation and their follow-up explanations that there wasn't any strong female talent in comics, and general lack of supportiveness for women in the field. (You can read my article about that here.)



I only make comics occasionally and focus more on other kinds of children's book illustration, and go along to lots of social events dominated by women. But when I first started going along to comics events, very often I was the only woman in the room. Over the past ten years, this has changed so much, partly I think because of the coming-together of an arts & crafts movement with comics (look at comics by Philippa Rice and Isabel Greenberg to see what I mean), and comics moving away from being so entirely dominated by superheroes.


But there have always been women making comics, and the women who've made them have had to fight against all the odds that male comics makers struggle with (mostly do to with not getting paid enough), and also being marginalised by comics lovers who didn't care to look outside of their own very focused spheres of interest (Marvel, DC, 2000 AD, etc). But to pretend talented female comics creators don't exist makes some people VERY angry, such as comics expert Stephen Holland at Nottingham's Page 45 bookshop, retweeted here by comics legend Kate Charlesworth (who for a long time drew the comics for New Scientist magazine):


(Here's the Comics Beat article Stephen's referring to.)

So the best way to counter the Angoulême assertions would have been to set up a comics exhibition, just on the other side of the channel tunnel, rebutting that notion entirely. I can't even say how thrilled I am that this was already in the works, and here it is! I hope lots of men and women will go along to it; anyone interested in comics, drawing, illustration, storytelling, graphic design, history, typography, etc will find it fascinating.



Patrice Aggs was making comics long before I even moved to England, she makes comics with her son (John Aggs), and she's attended the Angoulême comics festival more times than I can keep track of. If they don't know who she is by now, they haven't been trying. It was great to meet her husband, Chris Aggs, who's a painter; I always see her zooming around on her own! She was always the last one to bed at Angoulême; the rest of us were dropping with tiredness and she'd still be up having intense conversations with comics people at 4am.



Here's Patrice's comics on display:



A lot of people know more about women in comics through Nicola Streeten, co-founded with Sarah Lightman of Laydeez Do Comics, an excellent series of talks (by anyone creative, not just women, but with a focus on women). Here's Nicola looking very fine with legend Suzy Varty in their matching lime greens.



Kripa Joshi goes back and forth between England and Nepal, and was in Nepal during the earthquake. The evening was great to get the chance to have a look at the anthology she and Elena Vitagliano have compiled to raise money for the earthquake victims.



(You can find out more about their anthology project together here.)



One of the cool things about the launch party was seeing people who'd been lauded in their field for ages, but never actually been featured in an establishment exhibition. There was some big-time excitement. I'm not even sure who this creator is (Claudia Davila, perhaps?), but she was totally lit up, I got all giggly seeing how excited she was.





Kate Evans was pretty excited, too, and I got a copy of her new book, Red Rosa, about Rosa Luxemburg.




Somehow I was so busy looking around in the exhibition space that I missed the speeches. (Oops!) So I never got to meet co-curator Olivia Ahmad. But here I am with Paul Gravett, who is one of the top people I can credit with jump-starting my career. He found me, probably at the first comics event I ever went to (a Yahoo group pub meet-up), and pointed me in the direction of David Fickling, who published me both in his DFC comic and with my first UK picture book. There's this notion that women in comics is a Women's Issue that only women will be interested in, but it's not at all; it's just as much about the thoughtful and clued-in men (Paul, Stephen Holland, David Fickling, etc) who encourage women and help us get pointed in the right direction so we can make comics that everyone might enjoy.



And talking about clued-in people, here's Audrey Niffenegger, who doesn't let the confines of medium or genre limit what she does; she's succeeded in everything from comics to bestselling novels to printmaking to her work being staged as a ballet in the Royal Opera House.



Despite being fairly young, Isabel Greenberg has already created an impresssive collection of work and I'm a HUGE fan. She has this amazing way of bringing together a craft element with modern storytelling twists on old legends that's spectacular.



I loved being able to see old favourites at the exhibition, such as these Moomin pencil roughs by Tove Jansson:



And Posy Simmonds, who first inspired me to make comics with her Gemma Bovery book:



And another person who got me making comics was Simone Lia, with her Fluffy books about a rabbit that I found in a clothing shop in Brighton, when Simone was still self-publishing them through Cabanon Press. (The Fluffy books were later taken up by Dan Franklin at Jonathan Cape.)



Philippa Rice continues to inspire me with her innovative approaches to making comics, using non-traditional formats and materials and lovely storytelling (I think I've bought at least ten copies of my favourite of her books, We're Out, as gifts for friends.) Here's an interview I did with her about the book. And here's Karen Rubins having a look:



But it wasn't all familiar faces and work at the show. One of the great thing about the Angoulême debacle was the hashtag #WomenDoBD, which highlighted LOADS of female creators I'd never heard of. And this exhibition was like that. Lizz Lunney felt the same:




Check out this lovely piece by Aurelié William Levaux:



And I definitely want to get a copy of His Dream of the Skyland by Aya Morton. My top new find, I think.



A case of work by female comics creators from back as far as 200 years:



Hey, it's work by my former studio mate Ellen Lindner! Ellen was the one who introduced me to LiveJournal and its comics community, which shaped so much of what I know now. She edits a magazine of comics by women called The Strumpet, and lots of us at the show have had work featured in that.



It's one of my buddies from back in DFC comic days! Emma Vieceli and I have had lots of adventures, including a trip to Paris to exhibit with her French publishers. Emma used to organise the Cartoon Village at MCM Expo and she's one of the people everyone goes to when they want to know something about comics.



I really must go back to the exhibition for a longer, quieter browse. Besides all the displays, they have loads of interesting-looking books in the reading room.



The exhibition is aimed at adults, so while I think parents could bring older children, they should be aware that some of the content is graphic (but not horrific, I'd say) and that the frames might be hung a bit high for short people to read closely without assistance.



Three cheers for the House of Illustration and everyone who worked hard to make this show happen! You can follow the House of Illustration on Twitter: @illustrationHQ.

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3. Reeve & McIntyre Book 4, presenting...

My co-author Philip Reeve and I are excited to share the title of our next book with you!



Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair will come out this autumn, and I'm working like mad on it right now! You may remember my very first published collaboration with Philip Reeve, a comic strip that I wrote, he drew, and I coloured for The Phoenix Comic (Issue 44). It featured these two friendly alien repairmen:



And it was set on an amazing planet that was ALL funfair! A dream come true.



When I was little, I LOVED playing with LEGO and trying to build the most exciting funfairs I could think of. But I was always a bit disappointed with the results, I could never capture the funfair in my mind, it was supposed to be WAY better than that. I thought that growing up was how I'd acquire all the skills that would equip me to making a proper awesome funfair. But even though my dad was a top engineer, I never quite managed to master the maths and physics I'd need to build funfairs. ...But now I can DRAW them. I can build funfairs in people's MINDS, ha ha. Here's Emily. She's a bit like LEGO-kid me, but she looks very much like my studio mate, Elissa Elwick.



Inspired by our original comic, Jinks and O'Hare are very much supposed to be the main characters in this book, fixing the rides that go wrong on Funfair Moon. But Emily lives in the Lost Property office and she's rather ambitious. So we'll see what happens with her.... Here are a couple work-in-progress drawings:



The way I've been working is to draw thumbnails with pencil, working to Philip's text. (Philip came to London and helped me draw these). Then our designer, Jo Cameron, figures out how they can fit with the text, and we fiddle them around a bit. Then I draw them with pencil in more detail, and use my light box to trace over them with an old-fashioned dip pen and ink. I'll scan them into the computer, colour them in Photoshop, and they'll be ready to send back for Jo to put into the book! Now I'd better get back to the drawing...



Be sure to catch up with our other books before this one comes out! :)



PS Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair isn't a comic, it's the same format as the last three books. But if you love family-friendly comics, do have a look at what The Phoenix Comic is coming out with, it's brilliant stuff! You can either subscribe to the weekly magazine or buy their awesome compiled comic books. (Their Star Cat by James Turner won the top UK comic prize this year, the Young People's Comic Award.) Absolute essential books for any library.

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4. shape challenge weekend & an ode to livejournal

Things are going well so far with the Virtual Studio. I love how people are starting to take on #ShapeChallenge as their own thing, and I'm not so much 'in charge' of it any more. I just man the @StudioTeaBreak Twitter feed so everyone who draws gets followed and a retweet and a 'like'. This weekend two teenagers, Archie and George, are setting the shapes (tweeted through their mum's account); you can see what's going on over on Twitter. Here's my drawing for Archie's shape, a man playing nose flute with his toes, at sunset. :D



On Twitter the other day, I found a link to a lovely article about LiveJournal nostalgia by Lindsey Gates-Markel (@LGatesMarkel on Twitter). She's one of a pool of us who grew up with LiveJournal and who found ourselves and our creativity supported and shaped by its community:



I'm one of the few people I know who stuck around here on LiveJournal, and not because I thought it was perfect for social networking, just because it was where I kept my brain. LiveJournal was where I made sense of my world and decided what kind of person I wanted to be, and tried it out for size. In the early days, I could make mistakes, and post bad drawings, and it didn't matter; the community was forgiving and they were just like me, people who were still trying to figure out what they were doing, and making their own mistakes. Now I can still post stuff I'm not sure about here, because most people I know have left LiveJournal and it's almost like having a private diary. I have a terrible memory, and it really helps me get a sense of what I've been doing if I can go back through it.


I once had dinner with a well-known author who'd been on tour and asked her how she could remember all the many people and places she'd met and seen. And she said she wouldn't, she'd just remember a few key things. That made me sad; I thought, I don't want some day to get to the pinnacle of a career - where a lot of people wish they could be - and not even remember what's happened. If even that famous person can't remember these thing so many people dream about, it's like they never happened, and what's the point?

Another very talented (and I would say, well-known) author friend told me she just wasn't happy yet, she couldn't quite get to that place in her career that she wanted to reach, where everyone knows her name, and she found it depressing. That also made me think. I don't want to stake my happiness on a future goal, I need to find it along the way, or I might never be content. And I want to be content - having the time to draw, have good friends, see the world a bit - way more than I want to be famous or remembered after I die. And I think the way to be content is to notice what's happening around me, and keeping my blog really helps with that.


Experimental lino-cut study of a pine cone

I think, in a way, that's become my religion, simply 'noticing things'. Whether you believe in a creator or not, if you can imagine one, try to picture how he/she/it thinks up things and makes them, a bit like an artist. Artists love to have people look - really look - at our work, and notice the details we've put into things we've made, ask thoughtful questions, and treat our creations with respect by giving us credit for them. I think that's a healthy way for me to see the world, as a place full of someone else's artwork that deserves close attention, questioning, care, and credit where credit's due. And having a blog makes me stop and do that. It helps me notice the amazing people around me, it helps me think about the work I've created (sometimes just having a blog inspires me to create something), it helps me remember the people I've met and the places I've visited. It lets me get involved in drawing challenges with people and have fun seeing what they can do and show off my own more playful stuff, instead of just being focused on my commissioned work.


Another #ShapeChallenge-inspired drawing

I love Twitter, and it's pretty much the only way people find their way to my blog, when I link to a blog post. But Twitter is often reactive. The things that people share are often things that outrage or amuse them, but it doesn't leave much space for developing a train of thought. I like it best for posting images and cartoons, because so much can be communicated with those. But if I try to have a thoughtful argument, I do much better to take it to my blog and write an article about it.


Responding to the Charlie Hebdo attacks with ideas for people who wanted to get into making comics

A Twitter audience also doesn't give much mercy if I'm not certain of what I think from the outset. And I'm very seldom certain about anything; I like talking with people to help me develop my argument; I need the chance to say stupid things, have people thoughtfully counter what I say, and learn from that. But with Twitter, I can say that stupid thing and that could be the thing that gets retweeted, leaving the whole context behind.



The other problem with Twitter (and Facebook) is that things I've worked hard on, or thought a lot about, drift down the feed and get lost. Whereas, say, I want to remember the names of people I met at Kempston Library Festival, I can pop 'jabberworks livejournal kempston' into Google and the article from 2012 will come up instantly.

I miss my old LiveJournal community, but I love the speed that things can travel on Twitter; I love how I tweeted links to the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign articles and lots of people were talking about the issues right away. I love how people can comment on LiveJournal, but they can just as easily comment on Twitter or Facebook or wherever they want to say their bit. It's easier to have a discussion on Twitter about something when there's a blog article I can refer people back to, for context. So a combination of LiveJournal and Twitter, that's what works best for me.

I would feel silly if I tried to champion some big return to LiveJournal (popular now only really in Russia, I think). It's like trying to say MySpace might be cool again. (Ha ha!) But LiveJournal is there for me, and I'm comfortable with it, so I'll keep using it. People don't seem to mind coming to visit me in my eccentric blog home, as long as I write or draw something worth reading or looking at. Then again, maybe just because it is so totally uncool, it will take on a sort of retro glow, like Pac-Man or Atari, who knows.


Using LiveJournal to help me process the last election results

LiveJournal's not perfect. People tell me it can be hard to comment if they're not already a member; they have to jump through a few hoops to say something. (There used to be a horrible problem with spam comments, so the programmers must've dealt with it very strictly.)

Good things about LiveJournal:

* It's suprisingly Google-friendly. I think that's because it's such an old network, and its HTML format is very simple for webspiders to crawl through. (Can you sense I have no idea what I'm talking about? Yes, that's good.)

* It's simple. Our studio used to have a Wordpress blog and we kept having problems with images shifting about and doing strange things. Then we lost it completely and we'd forgotten to back it up, so that was that. LiveJournal's never once lost anything I've done. I even learned some basic HTML.

* It's slightly better than it used to be.
There have been a few upgrades: pictures are easier to load; you don't really need to know any HTML. But not so much has changed that it's confusing.

* It's quiet. I can blog and blog and no one but my parents will care a hoot about what I'm doing unless I go tweet a link. That's rather nice sometimes. My parents feel more in touch with me.

So there you go.

I love you, LiveJournal. Thanks for being there for me.

Ha ha, I haven't written such a long a blog post about myself for ages, it feels like the old days. If you've got this far, thanks for sticking with me! :)

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5. shape challenge

A couple more #ShapeChallenge drawings. :) (You can see the original shapes on the Twitter hash tag.)



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6. more shape challenge drawings

I've been a bit negligent in posting them here, but I've been trying to do a daily doodle, inspired by the #ShapeChallenge on Twitter. Click here to see the original shapes these pictures are based on, and lots of other people's drawings!









This last one's Paul Dano, playing Pierre in the BBC six-part adaptation of War & Peace, showing on Sunday nights. The story's going so fast it makes my head spin, but Stuart and I are still enjoying it very much.

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7. bubble car

Here's my little painting for today's #ShapeChallenge:


Here's the original shape. I got rid of the red in the dot, but that's okay, I can do that. (No real rules!) :)

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8. shape challenge mouse

Here's my #ShapeChallenge drawing for today. :)



And the original shape. See loads more here, they're amazing! Feel free to print out any of the shapes and try them yourself.



Love this one by @DazNewall:

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9. weekend #shapechallenge drawings

Here are a couple shapes from this weekend's #ShapeChallenge: my shape from Friday and the one @MrEFinch set on Sunday. (Thanks, Ed, for taking the weekend! I missed drawing Saturday's.)



You can see lots of awesome drawings here on the #ShapeChallenge hashtag.





And here's Monday's shape! Feel free to turn it any direction (or do anything you like, really!).

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10. shape challenge friday

Thursday's #ShapeChallenge!



By @AcmeDarryl


By @MrEFinch


By @Dave_Windett



By @gill_lewis


By @Schaafkaas_nl


By @DazNewall


By @Thatsebuk


By @ReaditDaddy


By @cartoonsbyRic


By Mabel (via @MrsJTeaches)


By @MrsJTeaches


By @SelinaLock


By @CuppaMatt


By @richardjoyce72


By @ADsaxist


By @cstewart16


By Emerald (via @cstewart16)


By @SJ_Popcorn


By @PhilipArdagh


By @edwinburrow


By @tobobobo


By @allykennen


By @its_monocat



And today's shape! Do jump in and use the #ShapeChallenge hashtag. :)

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11. alan rickman! noooooo

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12. shape challenge thursday

Yesterday my studio mate Elissa Elwick and I had fun taking our #ShapeChallenge drawings to the local cafe on our coffee break:



Here's Elissa's drawing (@ElissaElwick):


And mine:


It was fun seeing kids jumping in on the action! These came from a library in Bury, tweeted by Miss Ryder @BGSGLibrary:



@MrsJTeaches was also glad to see her kids drawing:


By Morris (via @MrsJTeaches)


By Mabel (also via @MrsJTeaches)


By Laurence (via his mum @caro_smith1)


By @ADsaxist


By @its_monocat


By @MrEFinch


By @PhilipArdagh


By @edwinburrow


By @cloesuzannebon


By @cartoonsbyRic


By @MrsJTeaches


By @phoebecarter65


By @roystoncartoons


By @gill_lewis


By @ReaditDaddy


By @Helenfarhan


By @SelinaLock


By @AcmeDarryl



And here's Thursday's new shape!

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13. shape challenge wednesday

I was so busy yesterday trying to finish two book cover that I didn't get to do the #ShapeChallenge. But I very much enjoyed today's shape, I'd been hankering to draw a Kachina doll for awhile.



By @CuteNosferatu


By @ADsaxist


By @BravingOnions


By @Garbriele_Tafuni



By @DazNewall


By @SelinaLock


By @PhilipArdagh


By @Dave_Windett


By Mabel (age 6 1/2), via @MrsJTeaches


By @Helenfarhan


By @cartoonsbyRic


By @dawnadays


By @MrsJTeaches


By @AcmeDarryl


By @JoolsAWilson


By @richardjoyce


By MrEdFinch


By @phoebecarter65


By @ReaditDadddy




And today's shape. (Feel free to join in!)

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14. shape challenge tuesday

You couldn't be on Twitter yesterday and not have seen the news about David Bowie, and Monday's #ShapeChallenge unsurprisingly had a Bowie theme. By @ReaditDaddy:



By @RosAsquith


By @MrsJTeaches


@MrEFinch


@leetabix


@DazNewell



@AcmeDarryl


Also by @DazNewell (before the Bowie news broke)


@BravingOnions


@Dave_Windett


@PhilipArdagh


@ADsaxist


By Camzon (via @mr_mrs_leigh)


By @MarcD_Weegem


By @Helenfarhan


By Mabel, age 6 and Morris, age 10 (via @MrsJTeaches)


By @SelinaLock


By @phoebecarter65


By @tobobobo


By @eruditebaboon (standing in the passport queue at Delhi airport!)



Here's a fascinating Paxman interview with David Bowie 15 years ago, about how the Internet of the future would change us:


And today's new shape. Feel free to jump in!


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15. always brilliant, david bowie



The last album makes so much sense now. :(

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16. shape challenge monday

Friday's #ShapeChallenge was good fun. I missed drawing Pilbeam the robot from Cakes in Space and managed to turn the day's shape into a similar model, called the Fink-Nottlebot 2000. (Click here for a black-and-white version if you fancy turning it technicolour yourself.)



I don't know if I managed to get all of the pictures here, but it's a lovely range of ideas:



I decided to take weekends off the challenge, so I don't get too tied in to Twitter, but Ed Finch took it up and kept it going Saturday and Sunday!



Do check the #ShapeChallenge hashtag to see all the amazing drawings made using Ed's shapes!



And here's Monday's new shape. Have fun with it! :)

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17. shape challenge 7 jan



By @eruditebaboon (who won the Young People's Comic Award this year for his Star Cat comic book!)



By @phoebecarter65



By @MrsJTeaches


By @scriberian


By @AcmeDarryl


By @dawnadays


By @DazNewall


By @AnSiogGlas


By @Canzonett


By @noodliedoodlie


By @ADsaxist


By @DoodlesMarc


By @hairyhatfield (three in the family!)


By @PhilipArdagh


By @JoolsAWilson


By @its_monocat


By @headfirst_dom


By @gilibugg


By @MrEFinch


By @ReaditDaddy


By @SelinaLock


By @cartoonsbyRic (Eek!)



And Friday's shape!

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18. women and the angoulême grand prix

What a scandal! France's top comics prize, a major feature of its annual Angoulême International Comics Festival announced its 30 nominees for the Grand Prize... and not one of them was a woman. At least ten of the nominees withdrew their names, and the festival is grudgingly backtracking and adding some women to the list. In Britain, I know we tend to look up to the French comics culture because it's so much more developed and generally popular than in Britain, but the prize revealed a real core where it's still a very old-fashioned men's club.



Whenever there's an international comics furore, it's always a clue to jump onto Twitter to see if anyone's drawing anything. And some did!




Brigid Alverson was quick to report on it for Comic Book Resources:


Read the rest of the article here


The insult to women comic creators was so blatant that it got people rallying around the Twitter hashtag #WomenDoBD, letting people know about female creators they might not have been aware of.



One of the creators I didn't know about was Japanese artist Kaoru Mori, creator of The Bride's Story books. (So many amazing pictures popped up when I did a Google Image search on her!) Thanks for the tip, @Iron_Spike!



Some people posted lists of women they thought ought to be considered for the Grand Prix:



What surprised me most was that the judges seemed surprised by the outcry at the announcement. I would have thought they'd be a bit embarrassed and regretful if they truly believed there weren't any deserving women artists, and have prepared a statement. But it's like they just didn't think it was an issue.



I do hope this doesn't discourage women from thinking they can't rise to the top of the comics profession (in France and elsewhere) and that the outcry will inspire them to try to become some of the best comics creators in the world. And that the men's club will open up, learn about them, and encourage them. Last year I posted this article right after the Charlie Hebdo killings and outcry, and I think it's still very relevant: I want to make cartoons & comics but I have no idea where to start! This walks people through some of the basic questions they might have. (Do share if you think anyone will find it helpful!)



If you understand French, you can watch Angoulême Executive Office Franck Bondoux being grilled on television about the committee's decision:



And Rob Salkowitz has written about it for Forbes:


Read the article here




You can keep checking the #Angouleme and #WomenDoBD tags for updates.

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19. dartmoor pegasus: happy new year!

Here's something Philip Reeve and I came up with while Stuart and I were visiting his family over Christmas. (Philip did the drawing, and most of the writing, too, but I SUPERVISED.) :D You can read Philip's New Year blog) here. (Contains pugs.)

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20. stuart norwegian jumper portrait

Here's a portrait I drew of Stuart in his Norwegian jumper. He's not grumpy, he's concentrating hard on his homework for Russian class. Also, he has grown a bit of a beard over the holidays.

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21. why i like colouring books

Whenever you see lots of a certain kind of book at the front of the shop, there will always be grumbles from people who create books that aren't those books. Right now the favourite eye-roller is COLOURING BOOKS. Brainless, juvenile distractions with hippie-dippy titles for people who can't come up with anything creative themselves, right?



Three reasons I think colouring books are fab:

Colouring is good training


When I started learning piano, I used to play awful repetative tunes - Suzuki method (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in five variations!), Hanon exercises - that drove the other people in the house nuts. But I didn't know how to play piano and the exercises were very useful, they got me used to the idea of sitting down and focusing on playing something, and taught my fingers to behave themselves. Now when I hear those tunes woven into music mixes, it's kind of heartwarming: those were some of the building blocks that made my brain how it is now. Not everyone can sit down in front of a blank piece of paper and fill it with images and there's nothing wrong with having some structure. I spent a good deal of time copying comics, not adding anything of my own to them, and it taught me the comics' rhythm and got my hand used to making the marks I wanted to make. People learn to play piano as adults; there's no reason they shouldn't learn to colour, too.

Colouring is hard

Colouring can be therapeutic but it can be teeth-grindingly difficult, too. When I make comics, often the colouring takes me longer than any of the other steps. To colour something well, my brain has to make lots of quick decisions, sometimes intuitive and other times carefully researched. Finding colour palettes we really love and can use in our work is a holy grail for illustrators. Some of them never really find a palette or palettes and skitter about using too many colours, or colours they don't feel are as good as they could be. I've done some complicated studies, trying to teach my brain how to place colours around an image so they're balanced in a way that makes the image communicate something as effectively as possible. There's a lot of science behind how colours work (cool colours vs warm colours, colour tonality, how different colours evoke different emotions, how colour moves the eye around in a picture). I still often get thing wrong.

Being a colourist can be a whole profession in itself, and people who are good at it are beloved of the comics people who hire them; a top professional comics colourist can make all the difference between a comic that makes you want to read it and one that repels you so you don't even bother settling down to look at the text or line art. Don't underestimate the work behind top-quality colouring, it can be at least as complicated as Sudoku! Sometimes much harder.

Colouring is fun

Some of my favourite childhood memories are sitting together colouring with other people. It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, a great way to give hands something to do while people spend time together. It's fun to fill a well-drawn image with colour, and in doing so, people get inside that picture and understand better how the drawing works. You really LOOK at someone's picture when you sit down and mess around with it. For that reason, well-drawn colouring books are more fun (and better training) than badly drawn ones; not all colouring books are equal. There's some great stuff out there right now, better than when I was a kid.

If you don't like colouring books, don't buy them, but I'm glad to see more people putting drawing materials to paper!

AND... if you've read this far, here's a TOP TIP: I hit on a great trick when I used to enter colouring competitions when I was a kid: PATCHWORK. If the other kids filled a space with solid colour and I filled it with a patchwork design (including the little stitches between colour blocks), I always won. I got some good swag! It struck just the right crafty home-y note with middle-aged judges, so there you go. TOP TIP.

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22. shape challenge

Back to work or school and feeling out of shape after the holidays? Well, here's a shape! Turn it into whatever you think it might be and, if you like, tweet your image back to me with the hash tag #shapechallenge. (I'm @jabberworks on Twitter.)

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23. costa children's book awards: frances hardinge

Big congrats to Frances Hardinge for last night winning this year's Costa Children's Book Award (and £5000, yay!) with her book The Lie Tree! I drew a little picture of her:



You can read more about the Costa Book Awards here. I loved Cuckoo Song, and The Lie Tree is already top of my reading stack!

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24. shape challenge: hats, birds, nosferatu, armadillo...

Yesterday's #ShapeChallenge was a lot of fun! I'm going to try to post a new shape every weekday here on the blog, on Twitter (under the #ShapeChallenge hashtag) and on my public Facebook page. Here's mine. (You can turn almost any shape into a hat, really.)



When I tweeted the shape, this Nosferatu by @nelliejean popped up almost straight away!



By @BeckaMoor:


By @JoeDecie:



By @noodliedoodlie:


By @ADsaxist:


By @SJ_Popcorn:


By @SteveMaythe1st:


By @AcmeDarryl:


By @MrEFinch:


By @Illio_Jones


By @CuteNosferatu:


By @PhilipArdagh:


By @LucyCoats:


By @brandle_k


By @Canzonett:


By @ClaraCharlotte:


By @DazNewall:


By @ashwell83:


By @david_buist:


And today's new shape!

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25. shape challenge 3

People have been posting so many creative #ShapeChallenge drawings!

By @AcmeDarryl:


By @stevencandraw:


By @PhilipArdagh:


By @david_buist


By @DazNewall:


By @CuteNosferatu:



By @Canzonett:


By @brandl_k:


By @ADsaxist:


By @cartoonsbyRic:


By @MrEFinch:


By @lucycoats:


By @dawnadays:


By @SelinaLock:


By @SJ_Popcorn:



Here's today's shape!

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